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Another drought looms as winter fails to show up

It wasn’t that long ago when Claremont, like other cities in Southern California, made drastic plans to cut water consumption because of a lengthy drought across the state. At that time we were dealing with water restrictions, brown parks and extreme fire danger from parched land in every direction.

Now in 2018, with no winter weather in sight, we are in for a huge case of déjà vu, as summer-like high temperatures have almost become the norm.

Even with significant rain and snow last winter, just drive around to see how the drought impacted Mother Earth. The Thomas Fire—the largest in California history—destroyed more than 273,000 acres and 1,000 homes in December. But the damage didn’t stop there.

During a recent trip north to Yosemite Valley, I saw damage from brush fires and drought all along the 250-mile journey to the national park. Believe it or not, there were more than 9,000 fires in California in 2017, burning 1.38 million acres.

These staggering numbers pale in comparison to tree damage south of Yosemite, where more than 110 million trees have been eaten from the inside out by pine beetles. Years of drought conditions allowed these beetles to live the good life, because so many trees were weak from lack of water. These insects are extremely difficult to fend off, with as many as 25,000 beetles inhabiting just one tree.

Since many of the damaged trees are located in remote, high elevation locations, it’s nearly impossible to treat or even dispose of the millions of dead trees. So they sit and rot until they fall over. At more accessible areas, tree stumps can be seen everywhere. This even includes Yosemite Valley, where work crews are cutting thousands of rotting trees in an effort to save healthy ones.

The snow pack this year in the High Sierra is only a fraction of the levels reached in 2016-17. Given this is the source of half our water each year, there’s increased cause for concern. Although the beautiful waterfalls in Yosemite still flow, the runoff is so light areas like Bass Lake—20 miles south of Yosemite—continue to shrink as water flow is slowed to a trickle.

As global warming continues to heat up the earth, drought conditions will seriously impact California’s geography for decades to come. This means the landscape, from the largest lakes to the dense untouched forests, will be changed forever.

Subscription boom

There’s something strange happening. As newspaper companies endure more layoffs in 2018, cutting staffing to all-time lows, January has actually been a record month for subscription payments at the COURIER. Tracking subscriptions year-to-year, month-to-month, has been frustrating for this publisher, because it’s so difficult to predict. Payments each month continue to vary, regardless of sales in previous years.

Given the fact it’s harder each year to maintain paid circulation, the COURIER is rapidly becoming an anomaly in the newspaper industry. Many community newspapers have changed to free distribution in an effort to keep readership numbers up. Yet a couple of weeks ago, we received payment for nearly 100 annual subscriptions in a single day! That’s a figure the Los Angeles Times would be happy with.

Our staff thinks there may be two reasons for this sudden surge in popularity. One, with all the news of layoffs, cries of fake news, accuracy and transparency, residents see the importance of having a high-quality community newspaper/website in their hometown. There seems to be a growing understanding for the value of accurate reporting. A strong community newspaper can also bring people together—something the current administration in Washington works against.

Second, we changed our billing timing by not sending subscription invoices as early. Now your bill is mailed the month a subscription ends. This seems to have created more sense of urgency to pay and avoid missed editions. Of course we have received a few more calls from readers who let their subscription lapse, but it all works out in the end. Especially for one gent who was in hot water with his wife because he didn’t pay their COURIER bill. We gave him copies of those missed editions to keep things copacetic at home.

We do strive to keep our readers informed…and, in some cases, out of trouble.